Dubai: 100% In Person Learning; No PCR

The Dubai government has said that all private schools must return to 100% in person learning from October 3rd. This will follow a brief period when online learning can continue. On the same day, the KHDA has issued COVID 19 protocols for students returning to school this academic year. Dubai schools will now see a return of extra-curricular activities, school trips and swimming and overnight camps.
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

A little over a week since ADEK announced back to school protocols for Abu Dhabi, Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority has announced the rules which schools will need to abide by this coming academic year.

Although many of the protocols will be familiar to teachers and students, there are a number of key changes in the ways in which schools can operate. Most significantly, all of Dubai’s private schools must offer 100% in person learning from October 3rd 2021. The shift to in person learning comes as 96% of Dubai’s school staff and 70% of students age 12-17 have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

What will change in Dubai schools?

Class group sizes will now be determined by available space, calculated to allow for social distancing. For younger children, the ‘bubble’ system will remain, however each bubble may now contain a maximum of 15 students.

For the first time since early 2020, schools will once again be able to offer a broad range of sports activities including swimming. Assemblies and performances will return, albeit with a caveats for social distancing and cleaning of performance spaces between groups. Children across the emirate will be able to enjoy school trips and overnight camps once again and school will be permitted to reopen canteens, so long as they conform to strict hygiene rules.

What will remain the same?

Staff and students age over six will still be required to wear face masks in school. Mandatory school sanitisation regimens must continue, and 1m social distancing is ‘recommended’. Schools will continue to be spot checked for compliance by the KHDA.


School Principals from across Dubai have praised the announcement and "sensible" protocols.  A delighted Zara Harrington, Principal at Safa British School had this to say;

“I have never been so excited to receive the communication that we received from the KHDA this evening! Whilst this is not quite a return to normality, it is a return to a real quality of life and the fact that the children can now take part in performances, assemblies, swimming events and showcase their talents is incredibly exciting.
"Of course, we will do this in a very safe way at Safa British School, following all the protocols. The thought of our children being able to fully immerse themselves in their learning environment makes me eternally grateful for the Dubai government and the KHDA to have released these ready for the start of term”.

At GEMS Education, Vice President of Education and Principal of GEMS Modern Academy, Nargish Khambatta, was equally thrilled.

"It’s time the children got their childhood back. The wait for the declaration of the details was well worth it. The guidelines for school reopening are pragmatic and well thought through. The children are going to be thrilled to have their swimming sessions back as well as their assemblies, plays and school trips!
"I particularly liked the emphasis on getting back to as close to normal as possible, but with a relentless focus on sanitization and safety protocols, including contact tracing. Buses back to 100% occupancy with specific seats assigned for students, will ensure drivers are back in their buses and bus routes optimized. Principals are breathing a sigh of relief!"

Giles Pruett, Executive Principal at Arcadia School, praised the KDHA for their support and for "putting children first".  

"The Arcadia family of schools are absolutely delighted that the KHDA have responded so supportively to the challenges of the pandemic and the current socioeconomic conditions in Dubai. Most importantly, however, they have put the children first and identified the imperative fact that a number of school leaders in our Emirate have been promoting, that we must have our children learning face-to-face to help maximise their growth and development.
"This optimistic new set of back to school protocols are still founded on the premise of safety for all of those engaged in education, but will allow our children to get back to as close to a normal school routine as possible. The reintroduction of swimming, after school activities and trips are a welcome relief and the 1M social distance adaptation will certainly ease the pressure on many schools."

The Royal Grammar School Guildford, Dubai will be opening their doors to students for the first time next week.  Principal Craig Lamshed is looking forward to seeing friendships grow and new ideas flourish as students come together.

“We applaud the KHDA for their decision to make in-class learning mandatory this term along with the return of swimming, assemblies and school trips; we are so excited as are the children. There is something special when you have all of the pupils in the classroom and the richness that comes from how they interact with their teachers and friends as they exchange ideas. Virtual learning has been great for educators during the pandemic, however, it has left some pupils feeling disconnected. At RGS Guildford Dubai, we are proud to have 100% in class learning from day one.”

The Dubai rules contain one key difference to those which will be implemented in Abu Dhabi. In the capital, unvaccinated students over the age of 12 will be required to take weekly PCR tests. Those who have received the vaccine, and those under the age of 12 will be required to have a monthly PCR test. Test results must be recorded on the Al Hosn app and shared with the child’s school.  

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